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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Fish discard ban step in right direction but Commission must go further, Green MEPs argue

Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor have today welcomed new proposals for a radical overhaul of the EU Common Fisheries Policy which seek to ban fishermen from throwing dead catch back into the sea but have expressed disappointment that the measures do not go far enough in placing environmental sustainability at the heart of European fishing.

Under current EU rules, fishing fleets are forbidden from landing more than their catch quota. Often, the only option is for the unwanted fish to be thrown back into the sea. The EU estimates that around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean, dead, sending stocks plummeting to less than ten per cent of post-war levels.

The proposals, announced by EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, will see the system of fish discards prohibited but the ban will only apply to a limited number of fish species that are commercially exploited.  Jean and Keith believe that this measure fails to make the necessary improvements in fishing practices which would ensure that unwanted fish are not caught in the first place.

Moves to overhaul the current EU rules gained momentum with the launch of the ‘Fish Fight’ campaign, led by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which called upon the European Parliament to reform its fishing policy in order to protect Europe’s fish stocks and improve the system for both fishermen and customers.  The European Parliament will now have 12 months to consult on the proposals before they are made law next year.

Commenting on the proposals, Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, said: “Out of sight, beneath our seas, we have done huge damage to a natural resource that was once abundant, leaving Europe dependent upon imports for nearly 70 per cent of the fish we eat.  Without abundant fish stocks, there will be no fishing industry or fishing communities – we have to think long term.  Commissioner Damanaki’s plans are a step in the right direction but we need to go further.  It’s not just a matter of stopping overfishing; we must also take steps to restore stocks and put more fish back in the sea.  Our waters are capable of supporting many times more fish than now exist and it is not too late for the situation to be reversed.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England said:
“Today’s proposals go only part of the way to reduce the amount of wasted fish which EU fishing policy has created. The EU needs to do better. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign has done a great job of highlighting this nonsensical waste of an increasingly scarce resource. But it is not just the discarding of fish which needs to be addressed. The EU needs to make sure that fishermen are able to fish more selectively so that those species which are declining are protected. Supermarkets and other retailers also need to do their bit to change consumer habits so that people are informed about which species are most at risk and can make better informed choices about which fish to buy.”